Common Nutrient Deficiencies in the Elderly And How the Right Diet Can Help
Ageing comes with a number of challenges in life, but one of the biggest things we need to pay attention to is diet and nutrition. Nutrient deficiencies are common among the elderly and can have significant impacts on their overall health and well-being, leading to everything from decreased energy to an increased risk in fractures and other health issues.
At TNM, we want to provide family members with valuable insights on how to identify vitamin and nutrient deficiencies in the elderly and how a proper diet can go a long way towards a healthier life. By being able to recognise the signs of deficiencies and incorporating the right foods into their diet, you can support your loved ones in maintaining great health and vitality – while continuing to enjoy food in the meantime!
How To Identify The More Common Nutrient Deficiencies
If somebody you know and love is experiencing a vitamin or mineral deficiency, there are often clear signs. Whilst we always recommend visiting your GP to confirm any sort of health issue, it’s worth noting what sort of changes you may find in your family members so you can determine when it’s time to see your family doctor.
Vitamin D Deficiency
One of the most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the elderly, especially if they tend to live a lot of their lives indoors and are unable to get out and about like they used to. Signs of vitamin D deficiency include muscle weakness, bone pain, fatigue, low mood, and an increased susceptibility to infections. A vitamin D deficiency will be determined via a simple blood test.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
This is another common deficiency amongst the elderly and even younger adults. If you’re finding that your family member is experiencing fatigue, memory problems, tingling sensations in their extremities, mood changes, or anaemia, please bring this up with your GP and request a blood test to assess vitamin B12 levels.
One of the most obvious signs of ageing is a change in the strength of our bones – but sometimes, things seem a little worse than they should be. Brittle bones, frequent fractures, muscle cramps, numbness and tingling are all indicators of calcium deficiency, which can be determined by bone density scans or blood tests for calcium levels.
Quite common in women of all ages, iron deficiency leads to fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and at times heart palpitations. Those who do not consume a lot of red meat or vegetables high in iron – such as spinach – may be more prone to this condition. A simple blood test to assess haemoglobin and ferritin levels will let you know whether or not your loved one is experiencing iron deficiency.
One of the other common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the elderly, potassium deficiency can make you more susceptible to muscle weakness, cramps, fatigue and also an irregular heartbeat. As is the case with many other deficiencies, a blood test can help to determine whether or not somebody is experiencing a lack of potassium in their diet.
Fixing Nutrient Issues With A Nutrient-rich Diet
Whilst supplements can be a quick and simple fix for any sort of vitamin or nutrient deficiency, a much better long-term solution is to incorporate suitable fruits, vegetables and more into your diet.
One of the best things you can do is emphasise the importance of whole foods. Encourage your senior family members to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Providing a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables will help to ensure a broad range of nutrients.
If they are experiencing a particular vitamin or nutrient deficiency, there are certain food sources you can seek out.
- Calcium and Vitamin D sources: Dairy products including milk, yoghurt, cheese, or plant-based alternatives fortified with calcium and vitamin D
- Vitamin B12 sources: Animal-based products including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. You can also explore fortified plant-based options for those following vegetarian or vegan diets
- Iron sources: Lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, and fortified cereals. Consume vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits and bell peppers, in order to enhance iron absorption.
- Potassium sources: Bananas, oranges, tomatoes, spinach, and sweet potatoes
Don’t Forget About Fluids!
Water and other suitable fluids should be consumed throughout the day by everyone! Some good sources of fluid include water, herbal teas, and low-sodium vegetable juice.
If you’re looking for easy meal solutions for the elderly that don’t skimp on nutrients, check out our menu of fresh and frozen meals, designed to avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the elderly. And, of course, they make mealtimes easier and more pleasant!